Michael Fereira was India’s foremost billiards player much before the likes of Geet Sethi and Pankaj Advani arrived on the scene.
He was preceded by Wilson Jones, the nation’s first amateur world champion.
The 77-year-old is now running scared—implicated in a cheating case involving QNET, a multi-level marketing company using the banned pyramid business model.
Ferreira, Malcolm Desai, Srinivas Rao Vanka , Magaral Veervalli Balaji, and Suresh Thimiri were all directors of Vihaan Direct Selling India (Pvt) Ltd., the entity that ran QNET.
Fereira, however, claims that he was a ‘mere shareholder’; he did not mislead or dupe any investors or customers.
He also never received any commission or dividends from the company. He attended the company’s programmes overseas to inspire them in his capacity as a former sportsperson.
His counsel Amit Desai said:
“The prosecution’s case is that Vihaan Direct Marketing had misled people through false representation. Ferreira was not involved in sales, he did not earn any commissions or dividends. The talks he gave were inspirational and not to sell products under the scheme. He is a well-regarded, respected sportsperson. He is 78 and tomorrow (on Saturday) is his 79th birthday.”
Public prosecutor Pradeep Gharat informed the Bombay High Court that Fereira owned 80% of the company.
Gharat claims that the company ran a ‘Ponzi scheme’ seeking amounts ranging from Rs.30,000 to Rs. 7.5 lakhs. The money earned was then repatriated abroad.
An FIR was registered in August 2013 under the Prize, Chits and Money Circulation Schemes (Banning) Act, 1978 and Maharashtra Protection Of Interest Of Depositors Act.
Fereira—who surrendered yesterday—has been remanded to police custody till October 13.
Fereira—nicknamed the ‘Bombay Tiger’—was a three-time billiards world champion.
The septuagenarian learnt to play billiards while schooling at St. Joseph’s School, Darjeeling. His interest continued through his college days at St. Xavier’s College and the Government Law College.
He famously rejected the Padma Shri in 1981—on winning his second world crown— contending that he should be honoured with the Padma Bhushan instead like Sunil Gavaskar. He was.